We reinstated our strict budget halfway through August. It was a particularly rough month because we spent $100 a week on Henry's swimming lessons, and we essentially paid double in childcare costs. Henry's authentic Montessori school is now in session (which we had to pay for in May), but they phase in the new children one by one, so he doesn't start until September 10.
I know I sound whiny when I talk about our budget. We are extremely fortunate to be able to send our son to our top-choice school and provide him with expensive swim instruction. And we eat primarily organic food. Tightening our spending is a choice. It's not due to a job loss or illness--we are very lucky and fortunate.
We're choosing to really tighten our belts right now because we want to continue to send Henry to private school until Austin has a free public Montessori option, I want to take another maternity leave if/when we have a second child, we want to continue eating food that is as healthy as possible, and we want to build our dream house while interest rates are amazingly low (and because I want to feel settled and put down deep roots into the neighborhood and community where I'm working to build a school).
But wanting to save for all those things doesn't make the act of doing it any easier. I feel like The Enforcer, always saying things like, "Well, if we're going to eat out tonight then one of us will have to pay with our personal allowance because we have no money left in our general account for the month." I want to buy Henry a balance bike because he's so interested in bikes right now, but we don't have that kind of disposable income. I find myself accidentally not purchasing as many fruits and vegetables in an attempt to keep our grocery bill in check, which affected Henry's regularity this week. Awful!
According to my estimates, we have more than a year left of living like this. I'm trying to figure out how to a) make living within a strict budget more enjoyable and b) keep up our strict budget for the next 12+ months. First, I went back to our monthly budget (which is based on this Excel document). Then we started a Mint.com account to look at our actual spending (instead of trying to sift through credit card and bank statements manually). I had to increase a couple of the categories based on what we were actually spending, but I managed to find an extra $100 in the end (primarily because I was rounding down my income initially). Matt suggested that we add $50 to our general monthly fund and $25 each to our personal allowances for the month (bringing us up to $60 each for the month).
I'm hoping that the extra little padding + swim lessons only once per month through the winter = a more sustainable and enjoyable life within a strict budget. I'll let you know how it goes!
Piggy bank available on Etsy